Many words have been spilled around these parts in service of post-rock and post-metal. Yet – outside of more expansive, god-tier, genre heavyweights; such as Isis and Neurosis – I’ve never found myself particularly captivated by the genre(s). Lush soundscapes building to cathartic crescendos are all well and good, but what about the grooves? Where are all my chunky riffs? The two approaches may at first appear diametrically opposed. However, by injecting some welcome heft and urgency into their sound, Finnish post-metal purveyors, Atlases have delivered an invigorating death metal hybrid in their debut full-length Haar, which serves as captivating midpoint between the two seemingly disparate genres.
The concept of post-death metal is nothing new. The label has often been thrown around in relation to the weirder side of the genre (your Gorgutses and your Ulcerates, etc.) and I have personally come to assosciate it with denser, more atmospheric turn-of-the-decade death metal acts: particularly 7 Horns 7 Eyes (what ever happened to those guys anyway?). Atlases approach is much more in keeping with the latter example, while also amping up the more identifiabley “post” aspects of their sound.
Having started out as a more traditional post-metal act, with their debut EP Penumbra (2017) – Haar brings an impressive modern death metal edge to proceedings, which is most evident on the album’s opening gambit, “Neophyte”. Though the rest of the record fails to strike the balance between atmosphere and groove so perfectly as its opener, there’s still plenty of each aspect to enjoy throughout. “Monolith” is another heavier outing, and “Heathen Colors” is riddled with the kind of atmospherics that made Hath‘s earlier debut so compelling.
Tracks like “Halcyon” and “Seasons Aligned” are more straight-forward post-metal offerings, which each recall (tonally at least) Underoath‘s experiments with post-metal textures on the outstanding Define the Great Line (2006) (think: “Casting Such a Thin Shadow”), while “Centralis” brings a similar tonality to a concoction that otherwise comes off as a blend between the melancholic melodeath of Insomnium and the forlorn doom of Swallow the Sun. “Earth Into Ocean” even begins by bringing some Tool-esque rhythms into play, before erupting into (by now) more familiar post-melodeath territory.
Though not the most complex or challenging listen, Haar offers both a refreshing variety and blend of contrasting elements. The compositions do tend to slip more toward the post-metal side of things as the record goes on, and I personally find the more death metal-influenced side of their sound a touch more compelling. It would be good to see Atlases attempt to strike a more consistent balance on future releases but, as far as debut records go, Haar is an intriguing and extremely promising starting point from which Atlases will (hopefully) continue to develop their sound.